For Written Answer on : 09/05/2023
Question Number(s): 287 Question Reference(s): 21389/23
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Education the supports that are available to early years children with special needs or additional needs who are not enrolled in a full day care setting such as a sessional ECCE service; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children with special educational needs nationwide. Responsibility for provision in the early year’s sector lies with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY).
The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme provides up to two years of pre-school within the eligible age range, without charge. The programme is managed and funded by DCEDIY and is recognised as the national universal pre-school programme available to all children, free of charge. The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) is a model of supports provided through the ECCE programme, and is designed to ensure the full inclusion and meaningful participation of children with disabilities in the ECCE programme. The main supports are grouped into universal or targeted supports. Universal supports are designed to create a more inclusive culture in Early Learning and Care settings, through training courses and qualifications for staff. Where universal supports are not enough to meet the needs of an individual child, targeted supports are available to ensure the child can meaningfully participate in pre-school. In addition to targeted and universal supports, AIM also provides universal design guidelines for Early Learning and Care settings and AIM Inclusive Play resources.
The NCSE sanctions the establishment of special classes, including Early Intervention classes where there is an identified need. There are currently 151 Early intervention classes nationwide. On occasion, Early Intervention classes are re-designated as school-age special classes to reflect the changing age-profile of students, the changing needs in an area and in order to ensure a continuation of support for students in the Early Intervention class who require a special class placement.
Information on the list of schools with special classes, the types (including Early Intervention) and locations of these classes is published on the NCSE website and is available at www.ncse.ie
The Home Tuition Grant Scheme provides a compensatory educational service for children with special educational needs seeking an educational placement for whom such a placement is not available, including placement in Early Intervention classes. Provision is also made for early educational intervention for children aged from 2.5 years to 3 years with autism.
Home Tuition is provided as an interim measure only for children for whom a placement in a recognised school is sought but not available and should not be regarded as an optional alternative to a school placement. Ensuring that every child with special educational needs gets a suitable education is a priority for the Department of Education.
Where parents of children, who are eligible for Home Tuition under the terms of the scheme, and for whom home tuition has been approved, have sought alternative arrangements to be put in place for the tuition, my Department has responded by putting arrangements in place with private pre-school providers which provide group tuition to children in a class type setting. Each pre-school provider is selected by the parents.
In recognition of the demand for group arrangements by parents of children, who are eligible for Home Tuition under the scheme, my Department now advises all such parents of the option to enter into a group arrangement with other parents of children for whom home tuition has been sanctioned. Parents wishing to enter into such an arrangement must notify my Department in advance for approval.